Temperature excursions and APIs to reduce study monitor work

I did a lot of local excursions the past 3 days – Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Herzliya and Haifa.   For some reason, the conversations with 2 prospects had to do with refrigerators.   I do not know if this is Freudian or not, considering the hot weather of July in Israel.

The conversations about refrigerators had to do with storing drugs / investigational product at the proper temperatures.

Temperature excursion is a deviation

The great thing about not coming from the clinical trials space is that you are always learning new things.

Yesterday – I learned that a Temperature excursion is a deviation from given instructions. It is defined in the WHO Model Guidance as “an excursion event in which a Time Temperature Sensitive Pharmaceutical Product (TTSPP) is exposed to temperatures outside the range(s) prescribed for storage and/or transport.

Storing drugs at the proper temperature is part of GCP. Here is an SOP for Monitoring and Recording Refrigerator & Freezer Temperatures

1 Introduction All refrigerators and freezers used for the storage of Investigational Medicinal Products (IMPs) must be temperature controlled, and continuously monitored and maintained within the appropriate ranges as defined by the protocol. ICH GCP Principle 2.13 states “Systems with procedures that assure the quality of every aspect of the trial should be implemented.”

Moving on:

5 Procedure
 Current maximum/minimum thermometers must be monitored as a minimum at least once on a daily basis on all working days, and recorded legibly on the temperature monitoring log.
 The digital maximum/minimum thermometer –
□ Should be read from the outside of the refrigerator without opening the door.
□ Have an accuracy of at least +/- 1 oC.
□ Be able to record temperatures to one decimal place.
□ Be supplied with a calibration certificate.
□ Have the calibration check on an annual basis.
 Temperature logs should be kept close to the refrigerator/freezer (but not inside) to which they relate for ease of reference, and should be clearly identified as relating to that appliance.
 A separate temperature record must be kept for each fridge/freezer. (The use of whiteboards as a method of logging results is not acceptable.)
 It is good practice to record the temperature at a similar time each day e.g., first thing in the morning before the refrigerator door is opened for the first time. This will allow review of trends in results recorded; help highlight any changes in temperatures recorded and deviation in refrigerator performance.

There is a lot of manual work involved looking at refrigerators

I believe a study monitor will spend 20’/day checking logs of refrigerator temperature readings. When you add in time for data entry to the site coordinators – that’s another 20’/day and then you have to multiply by the number of sites and refrigerators.   This is only the reading temperatures and capturing data to the EDC part of the job.   Then you have to deal with queries and resolving deviations.

For something so mundane (although crucial from a medical research perspective), its a lot of work. The big problem with using study monitors to follow temperature excursions is that the site visits are every 1-3 months. With the spiralling costs of people, the site visits are getting less frequent.

This means that it is entirely plausible that patients are treated with improperly stored drugs and the deviation is undetected for 3 months.

Whenever I see a lot of manual work and late event detection, I see an opportunity.

It seems that there are a few vendors doing remote monitoring of refrigerators.  A Polish company from Krakow, called Efento has a complete solution for remote monitoring of refrigerators storing investigational product.  It looks like this:

 

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What is cool (to coin a pun) about Efento is that they provide a complete solution from hardware to cloud.

The only thing missing is calling a Flask API to insert data into the eCRF for the temperature excursions.

Once’s we’ve got that, we have saved all of the study coordinators and study monitors time.

More importantly, we’ve automated an important piece of the compliance monitoring puzzle – ensuring that temperature excursions are detected and remediated immediately before its too late.

Doctor-Patient Communication – the key to success and the struggle to succeed.

Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patients Association London once said,

“The huge rise in complaints in relation to communication and a lack of respect are of particular concern. Patients are not receiving the compassion, dignity and respect which they deserve.”

As clinical trial technology guys, you would assume that we love code more than we love the patients and site coordinators who use our software.

I took a random sample of  home pages from 3 of our competitors – and this is what I found.   We can discuss if real-time visibility to  data is going to make the clinical operations team more effective or not – but that is a story for another post.

EMPOWER YOUR CLINICAL TRIAL EDC + ePRO and a bunch of other features to make your clinical trial successful. ( viedoc )

Oracle Health Sciences InForm. Accelerate Clinical Trial Timelines While Reducing Trial Cost and Risk.

Collect and deliver higher-quality data faster through advanced data capture and query management, real-time visibility to data, standards-based, integrated workflows, and security best practices.

Faster, smarter medical research. Castor is the end-to-end data solution, enabling researchers to easily capture and integrate data from any source on one platform. Thousands of medical device, biotech, and academic researchers around the world are using Castor EDC (Electronic Data Capture), ePRO, and eTMF to accelerate their studies.

In this article we’ll discuss the doctor-patient communications gap as a generic problem. We will briefly examine the root cause of the problem and conclude by proposing a light-weight easy-to-use Web service for sharing and private messaging with patients and physicians as a way to ameliorate the problem.

Poor patient-doctor communications as a generic problem

Doctor-Patient communication is the key to the success of a treatment plan and reduction of hospital readmission. However, doctors and nurses often fail in communicating with their patients properly.

What is the nature of poor doctor-patient communications?

Some patients say that their doctors need to polish their communication skills; although they are excellent diagnosticians.

Other patients say that their doctors know how to talk, but seem to have no time to listen.

Many patients also complain that their doctors don’t explain things in terms patients can understand. Poor communications between doctors/nurses and their patients can come at a high cost, creating misunderstandings that can  lead to malpractice suits.

In a hospital setting, we often hear that patients feel that they are not getting any useful information while the medical staff feel that they have taken the time to communicate all the data that the patients and their families need in order to understand and comply with the treatment plan.

The question is why some doctors find it hard to communicate properly and share things with their patients in a desired manner while other doctors succeed in communicating the therapeutic plan to the patient in a manner that the patient understands.

Poor physician-patient communications is rooted in cognitive and cultural gaps

Patients are the experts at their personal feelings and experiences.  Physicians are the experts in the medical science.  Cultural and language differences and preconceived notions about the doctors role only contribute to the cognitive gap between emotion and science.

Besides the cultural and cognitive gaps, high patient volume and work overload is another root contributor to poor doctor patient communications.  This generally happens in poor countries. In the third world, working over capacity is one of the biggest barriers to effective communication. Hospitals, doctors and nurses are forced to admit more and more patients and are compelled to handle more than they can manage. Under such circumstances, health professionals cannot devote enough time to their patients let alone sit down with them in a quiet corner and explain the therapeutic plan.

Sharing and private messaging with patients  and doctors helps bridge the gaps

The solutions are out there.

In this always-on age of mobile medical devices and cloud services, both healthcare professionals and the patients have immediate access to the latest solutions that can help them communicate more effectively and efficiently. There are private social networks for healthcare that have been exclusively developed for sharing and private messaging with doctors, nurses and patients, enabling doctors and patients to interact and share where and whenever they need the interaction.

Neither the patient nor the physician need to be tied down to a proprietary healthcare provider portal.

Secure Web-based sharing and private messaging services improve the ways doctors and nurses communicate with their patients. This helps them improve the quality of service and lower operational costs, and enables doctors to treat more patients in less time and with less stress.

In summary

Poor patient-doctor communications has a number of causes and it is rooted in both cultural, language and cognitive differences.   Using a neutral medium such as online sharing and private messaging with patients and doctors helps bridge the gaps we discussed.

We’d love to hear what you think – please comment!

Thanks!

Urban medical legends

Because I was trained as a solid-state physicist I am skeptical of many medical claims – including the efficacy of digital health apps.  Gina Kolata wrote this post last week.  I’ll let you decide for yourself.

You might assume that standard medical advice was supported by mounds of scientific research. But researchers recently discovered that nearly 400 routine practices were flatly contradicted by studies published in leading journals.

 

(more…)

Why Microsoft is evil for medical devices

Another hot day in paradise. Sunny and 34C.

Not a disaster but still a PITA

We just spent 2 days bug-fixing and regression-testing code that was broken by Microsoft’s June security update to Windows operating systems and Explorer 11.    Most of the customers of the FlaskData EDC, ePRO, eSource and automated detection and response platform use Chrome or Firefox on their desktops.   This was no solace to site coordinators in one of the sites using Flaskdata.  They came into work on Monday and the hospital-standard Explorer 11 no longer supported our application.

Microsoft published KB4503259 as a cumulative security update but it was much more.  The update included major changes to the Explorer JavaScript engine. Its because of delightful black swans like this, running a SaaS business is not for the faint of heart.

I once wrote an essay on my cybersecurity for medical device blog called The Microsoft Monoculture as a threat to national security.

Why Microsoft is evil for medical devices

I suggested that the FDA might consider banning Windows as an operating system platform for medical devices and their accompanying information management systems.

One of my readers took umbrage at the notion of legislating one monoculture (Microsoft) with another (Linux) and how the Linux geeks are hooked on the CLI just like Windows users are hooked on a GUI.

The combination of large numbers of software vulnerabilities,  user lock in created by integrating applications with Windows,  complexity of Microsoft products and their code and Microsoft predatory trade practices are diametrically different than Linux and the FOSS movement.

The biggest threats to medical devices in hospitals is old Windows versions

One of the biggest threats to medical devices in hospitals is the widespread use of USB flash disk drives and Windows notebooks to update medical device software. With the infamous auto-run feature on Microsoft USB drives – flash memory is an easy attack vector for propagating malware via Windows based medical devices into a hospital network. This is one (and not the only) reason, why I am campaigning against use of Windows in medical devices.

This  has nothing to do with the CLI or GUI of the operating system and personal preferences for a user interface.

This has everything to do with manufacturing secure embedded medical devices that must survive in most demanding, heterogeneous and mission critical environment one can imagine – a modern hospital.

I never advocated mandating Linux by law for medical devices.

It might be possible to mandate a complex set of software security requirements instead of outlawing Windows in embedded medical devices as a more politically-correct but far more costly alternative for the the FDA and the US taxpayer.

Regardless of the politics involved (and they are huge…) – if the FDA were to remove Windows from an approved list of embedded medical device operating systems – the costs to the FDA would decrease since the FDA would need less Windows expertise for audits and the threat surface they would have to cover for critical events would be smaller.

Obsessed with patient compliance

Obsessed with patient compliance

I’m watching a series of short videos done by Techstars founder Brad Feld.

Brad talks about founders needing to be obsessive.

I am totally obsessed with patient compliance.

The key to speed in medical device trials is eliminating non-value-added activities and automating everything else.

There are a lot of smart people working on RWD and RWE and mobile, AI and machine learning.

We are working on automating patient compliance detection and response because we are obsessed with making site coordinators more productive.

We correlate 3 streams of data: patient, device and site coordinator and automated detection and response of patient compliance deviations and then apply some decision trees.

In order to catch high-priority events (like over or under-dosing), the study team can subscribe to real-time alerts.

The patients can be subscribed to adaptive reinforcement messages.

The site coordinator, study monitors and project manger get real-time analytics showing trends of patient compliance sliced and diced by patient, site, cohort, date, time…

So far – the results with customers have been encouraging – with our early adopters achieving 85-95% patient compliance in global multi-centre studies.

Check out my colleague Tigran’s post on the absurd idea of using edit checks to assure patient compliance.

How to improve patient compliance in your medical device study

Here’s an idea that will make you slap your forehead.

You can just stop transcribing case reports on paper.

FDA eSource guidance recommends direct data entry into your EDC.  The eCRF becomes electronic source and you eliminate source document verification.

You save money, systems, time and you get to go home early.

Don’t let people confuse you with all kinds of complicated scenarios just because they’re selling systems.

Check out my blog post on Why merging medical records and clinical trial data is a very bad idea and see how merging EMR and clinical trial data can expose you to data breaches and endanger your clinical trial success.

Just keep it simple.

Do you  have 15 minutes for a quick call  with me?

– Tuesday @10 AM
– Wed @ 12AM
– Thur @ 2PM
Schedule a call with me  https://calendly.com/dannyl/15min

Killed by code in your connected medical device

patient compliance in medical clinical device trials

Are we more concerned with politicians with pacemakers or families with large numbers of connected medical devices?

Back in 2011, I thought it would only be a question of time before we have a drive by execution of a politician with an ICD (implanted cardiac device). May 2019, with mushrooming growth in connected medical devices (and after the Israeli 2019 elections), I am rethinking my risk analysis.

Consider this: If a typical family of 2 parents and 3 children have 5 mobile devices, it is a reasonable that this number will double with medical IoT and software as devices for diabetes management, asthma monitoring, fetal monitoring, remote diagnosis of children, home-based urine testing and more.

So far, it seems the politicians are still around, but the cybersecurity vulnerabilities for medical devices are growing in frequency and impacting big medical device vendors like Medtronic as reported by FDA in March 2019 – Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities Affecting Medtronic Implantable Cardiac Devices, Programmers, and Home Monitors

Audience: Patients with a Medtronic cardiac implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) or cardiac resynchronization therapy defibrillators (CRT-Ds)

-Caregivers of patients with a Medtronic ICD or CRT-D

-Cardiologists, electrophysiologists, cardiac surgeons, and primary care physicians treating or managing patients with heart failure or heart rhythm problems using a Medtronic ICD or CRT-D

-Medical Specialties

-Cardiac Electrophysiology, Cardiology, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Heart Failure

Purpose: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is issuing this safety communication to alert health care providers and patients about cybersecurity vulnerabilities identified in a wireless telemetry technology used for communication between Medtronic’s implantable cardiac devices, clinic programmers, and home monitors. The FDA recommends that health care providers and patients continue to use these devices as intended and follow device labeling.

Although the system’s overall design features help safeguard patients, Medtronic is developing updates to further mitigate these cybersecurity vulnerabilities. To date, the FDA is not aware of any reports of patient harm related to these cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

In Jan 9, 2017 FDA reported in a FDA Safety Communication on “Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities Identified in St. Jude Medical’s Implantable Cardiac Devices and Merlin@home Transmitter.

At risk:

-Patients with a radio frequency (RF)-enabled St. Jude Medical implantable cardiac device and corresponding Merlin@home Transmitter

-Caregivers of patients with an RF-enabled St. Jude Medical implantable cardiac device and corresponding Merlin@home Transmitter

-Cardiologists, electrophysiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, and primary care physicians treating patients with heart failure or heart rhythm problems using an RF-enabled St. Jude Medical implantable cardiac device and corresponding Merlin@home Transmitter

Different classes of device. Different threat scenarios. A wellness app does not have the same threat model as implanted devices

I’ve been talking to our medical device customers about mobile security of implanted devices for over 7 years now.

I  gave a talk on mobile medical device security at the Logtel Mobile security conference in Herzliya in 2012 and discussed proof of concept attacks on implanted cardiac devices with mobile connectivity.

But – ICD are the edge, the corner case of mobile medical devices.

If a typical family of 2 parents and 3 children have 5 mobile devices, it is a reasonable scenario that this number will double withe devices for fetal monitoring, remote diagnosis of children, home-based urine testing and more.

Mobile medical devices are becoming a pervasive part of the Internet of things; a space of  devices that already outnumber workstations on the Internet by about five to one, representing a $900 billion market that’s growing twice as fast as the PC market.

There are 3 dimensions to medical device security – regulatory (FDA), political (Congress) and cyber (vendors implementing the right cyber security countermeasures)

The FDA is taking a tailored, risk-based approach that focuses on the small subset of mobile apps that meet the regulatory definition of “device” and that the software as a device mobile apps:

-are intended to be used as an accessory to a regulated medical device, or

-transform a mobile platform into a regulated medical device.

Mobile apps span a wide range of health functions. While many mobile apps carry minimal risk, those that can pose a greater risk to patients will require FDA review. The FDA guidance document  provides examples of how the FDA might regulate certain moderate-risk (Class II) and high-risk (Class III) mobile medical apps. The guidance also provides examples of mobile apps that are not medical devices, mobile apps that the FDA intends to exercise enforcement discretion and mobile medical apps that the FDA will regulate in Appendix AAppendix B and Appendix C.

Mobile and medical and regulatory is a pretty sexy area and I’m not surprised that politicians are picking up on the issues. After all, there was an episode of CSI New York  that used the concept of an EMP to kill a person with an ICD, although I imagine that a radio exploit of  an ICD or embedded insulin pump might be hard to identify unless the device itself was logging external commands.

See my presentation ‘Killed by code’

Congress is I believe, more concerned about the regulatory issues than the patient safety and security issues:

Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA), both members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter last August asking the GAO to Study Safety, Reliability of Wireless Healthcare Tech and report on the extent to which FCC is:

Identifying the challenges and risks posed by the proliferation of medical implants and other devices that make use of broadband and wireless technology.
Taking steps to improve the efficiency of the regulatory processes applicable to broadband and wireless enabled medical devices.
Ensuring wireless enabled medical devices will not cause harmful interference to other equipment.
Overseeing such devices to ensure they are safe, reliable, and secure.Coordinating its activities with the Food and Drug Administration.

At  Black Hat August 2011, researcher Jay Radcliffe, who is also a diabetic, reported how he used his own equipment to show how attackers could compromise instructions to wireless insulin pumps.

Radcliffe found that his monitor had no verification of the remote signal. Worse, the pump broadcasts its unique ID so he was able to send the device a command that put it into SUSPEND mode (a DoS attack). That meant Radcliffe could overwrite the device configurations to inject more insulin. With insulin, you cannot remove it from the body (unless he drinks a sugary food).

The FDA position that it is sufficient for them to warn medical device makers that they are responsible for updating equipment after it’s sold and the downplaying of  the threat by industry groups like The Advanced Medical Technology Association is not constructive.

Following the proof of concept attack on ICDs by Daniel Halperin from the University of Washington, Kevin Fu from U. Mass Amherst et al “Pacemakers and Implantable Cardiac Defibrillators:Software Radio Attacks and Zero-Power Defenses”  this is a strident wakeup call to medical device vendors  to  implement more robust protocols  and tighten up software security of their devices.

Living off generic solutions developed in the past

I recently read some posts on Fred Wilson’s blog and it was impressive that he writes every day.

I’ve fallen into the trap of collecting raw material and then waiting to find time to write a 2000-word essay on some topic of importance to me.   But, I think it was Steve Jobs who said the best time to do anything was 20 years ago and failing that – best time is now.  So now – I will start writing every day and attempt to write on topics of interest to my customers, not me.

We are working on automating patient compliance in medical device clinical trials.   Patient compliance is critical for the success of medical device studies.

When we mean success – we mean proving or disproving the scientific hypothesis of the study.  Efficacy – is the device an effective treatment for the indication?

Safety – is the device safe for patients?

When we say patient compliance automation we mean the combination of 4 things which depend on each other:

1.Reinforcing patient compliance to the protocol – for example reporting on time and taking the treatment on time.  AI-based reinforcement uses data from the patient’s behavior and similar behavior to keep the patient on track without driving him crazy with text or push messaging.

2.Automated monitoring of compliance – using clinical measures and the treatment schedule for the study.    An example of a clinical measure is the number of capsules a patient took. An example of treatment schedule is taking the capsules every day before 12.

The output of automated monitoring is real-time alerts and compliance trends to the study team.

3. Automate patient compliance reinforcement using and adaptive control process that takes fresh data from the alerts to make decisions on how to reinforce the patient and keep them on track.

4.In order to automate monitoring and do AI-based reinforcement of patient compliance, you need fresh and up-to-date data.

There is a lot of work being done by startups like Medable, Litmus Health and Flaskdata.io (disclaimer – I am the founder of Flaskdata.io) but it’s a drop in the ocean of 24,000 new clinical trials every year.

Fundamentally – the problem is that the clinical trials industry uses generic solutions developed 40 years ago to assure quality of data-entry from paper forms.

The generic solution used today involves waiting 1-3 days for site data collection to the EDC, and 4-6 weeks for a site visit and SDV and then another 1-12 weeks for a central monitoring operation in your CRO to decide that there was a protocol violation.

You don’t have to be a PhD data scientist to understand that you cannot assure patient compliance to the clinical protocol with 12-week-old data.

The only explanation for using 40-year-old generic solutions is that the CRO business model is based on maximizing billable hours instead of maximizing patient compliance.

It seems that if you want to achieve real-time detection and response and AI-based patient compliance reinforcement, you have to disrupt the CRO business model first.

Invisible gorillas and detection of adverse events in medical device trials

Weekly Episode #1 - Patients and study monitors are both people.

What is easier to detect in your study – Slow-moving or fast moving deviations?

This post considers human frailty and strengths.

We recently performed a retrospective study of the efficacy of  Flaskdata.io automated study monitoring in orthopedic trials. An important consideration was the ability to monitor patients who had received an implant and were on a long term follow-up program. Conceptually, monitoring small numbers of slow-moving, high-risk events is almost impossible to do manually since we miss a lot of what goes on around us, and we have no idea that we are missing so much. See the invisible gorilla experiment for an example.

One of patients in the study had received a spinal implant and was on a 6 month follow-up program dived into a pool to swim a few laps and died by drowning despite being a strong swimmer. Apparently, the pain caused by movement of the insert resulted  in loss of control and a severe adverse event. The patient had disregarded instructions regarding strenuous physical activity and the results were disastrous. 

It seems to me that better communications with the patients in the medical device study could have improved their level of awareness of safety and risk and perhaps avoided an unnecessary and tragic event.

Subjects and study monitors are both  people.

This might be a trivial observation but I am going to say it anyhow, because there are lessons to be learned by framing patients and monitors as people instead of investigation subjects and process managers. 

People are the specialists in their personal experience, the clinical operations team are the specialists in the clinical trial protocol. Let’s not forget that subjects and study monitors are both  people.

Relating to patients in a blinded study as subjects without feelings or experience is problematic. We can relate to patients in a personal way without breaking the double blinding and improve their therapeutic experience and their safety. 

We should relate to study monitors in a personal way as well, by providing them with great tools for remote monitoring and enable them to prioritize their time on important areas such as dosing violations and sites that need more training. We can use analytics of online data from the EDC, ePRO and eSource and connected medical devices in order to enhance and better utilize clinical operations teams’ expertise in process and procedure.

A ‘patient-centered’ approach to medical device clinical trials

In conditions such as Parkinsons Disease, support group meetings and online sharing are used to stay on top of medication, side effects, falls and general feeling of the patient even though the decisions on the treatment plan need to be made by an expert neurologist / principal investigator and oversight of protocol violations and adverse events is performed by the clinical operations team. There are many medical conditions where patients can benefit by taking a more involved role in the study. One common example is carpal tunnel syndrome. 

According to the findings of an August 3rd, 2011 issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (JBJS), patients receiving treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) prefer to play a more collaborative role when it comes to making decisions about their medical or surgical care. 

Treatment of carpal-tunnel syndrome which is very common and also extremely dependent upon patient behavior and compliance is a great example of the effectiveness of “shared decision-making, or collaborative, model” in medicine, in which the physician and patient make the decision together and exchange medical and other information related to the patient’s health.

As the article in JBJS concludes:

“This study shows the majority of patients wanted to share decision-making with their physicians, and patients should feel comfortable asking questions and expressing their preferences regarding care. Patient-centered care emphasizes the incorporation of individual styles of decision making to provide a more patient-centered consultation,” Dr. Gong added. 

In a ‘patient-centered’ approach to medical device clinical trials, patients’ cultural traditions, personal preferences and values, family situations, social circumstances and lifestyles are considered in the decision-making process.

Automated patient compliance monitoring with tools such as Flaskdata.io are a great way to create a feedback loop of medical device clinical data collection,  risk signatures improvement, detection of critical signals and communications of information to patients. Conversely, automated real-time patient compliance monitoring is a a great way of enhancing clinical operations team expertise.

Patients and study monitors are both people. 

Why EDC is essential for any medical device clinical trial

This is a post David wrote a while back and it still seems relevant.  If you would have asked me 2 years ago – I would have told you that in 2018, no one would be doing paper medical device clinical trials the same way that no one does paper accounting.   I would have thought that logic would prevail considering the advantage of using automation and technology instead of using your Chief science officer to manually enter data into Excel.

Medical science is the foundation for innovative medical devices. Taking medical science and developing a medical device product requires translating basic science into technology.  This is self-evident.

So why do so many innovative medical device vendors conduct their clinical trials using paper?  Damn if I know.  Using paper for medical device clinical trials is somewhere between penny-wise and pound foolish and plain dumb.

Every year, 20,000 clinical trials are performed. An electronic data capture (EDC) system is quickly becoming adopted as the modern standard for monitoring in clinical trials. EDC solves the problems that are inherent to traditional, paper-based methods of data capture. During medical device clinical studies, the accessibility to real-time data capture and storage during conduction is key to performing a study that is cost efficient, and effective in generating results.

Paper-based = slow and costly

EDC = quick and efficient

Do not forget these simple equations, as they should become your mantra.

As seen below, the number of medical device clinical trials conducted is like the global population; it only keeps increasing. The pressure is on for product developers to conduct studies in the most expedient fashion possible, and collecting data that is not only pertinent and useful, but is clean and devoid of doubt concerning its accuracy.

Number of patients who took part in clinical trials for pharmaceutical companny Roche from 2009 to 2014

Thanks to technological advances (read: EDC), on-site monitoring and clumsy, paper-based data storage are going the way of the dodo bird. The use of EDC as a basis for automating patient compliance during medical device clinical trials is quickly developing as more an more medical devices become connected via mobile and home wireless networks.

Paper-based data capture systems are irrelevant for connected medical clinical trials.

90% of drug development costs are invested in clinical trial conduction. EDC systems facilitate automation of patient compliance  during the duration of the medical device trial. And while not every medical device trial uses connectivity and automated patient compliance monitoring, there is an increasing understanding that the direction is digital and not paper.

The majority of the public values clinical trials for the healthcare industry, as seen below. Implementing an EDC system for medical device clinical trial monitoring has proven to reduce study costs by 59%. So, ask yourself, what are you waiting for?

Opinions of U.S. Adults on paricipation and interest in clinical trials as of 2013

As seen above, the value of clinical trials is understood by the public, and as clinical trials continue to grow in scope of variables and number of participants, they require a more efficient means of data capture in order to cut the costs involved in monitoring. EDC systems provide exactly that. Here we will touch upon why an EDC system is becoming an essential for clean and efficient risk-based monitoring in clinical trials.

Medical device monitoring data is available in real-time

Using an EDC system affords the opportunity for study monitors to receive data entered by clinicians as soon as it is collected. By using hand held devices, such as a tablet, that are logged into an EDC system, makes risk-based monitoring a breeze. No longer does one need to record data on a clipboard, and then duplicate the same data into an on-site hard drive. This means that monitors are getting their hands on information the second it is captured.

Simply put, the faster that you get data into the hands of your monitors, the greater the efficiency of the study.

Increased study efficiency through cloud notifications

Recently, for the past 20 years or so, medical device clinical trials have been substantially increasing in scale and complexity as they continue to become more valued and salient as a means of biomedical development. Often, they involve a sizable number of people responsible for entering data, and study monitors assigned the task of monitoring specific variables and patient compliance to the protocol.

An EDC system automates the appropriate delivery of fresh and high-quality data from investigational sites, patients and connected medical devices. Whoever needs to receive whatever data variables from a clinician are notified in their personal account via the cloud. Not only does cloud-based EDC keep monitors informed in real time, but the organization and delivery properties ensure that the right monitors are receiving the right data, increasing efficiency in increasingly complex studies.

When data is entered after capture, an EDC system can automate from the entry user the delivery of data to the assigned monitor. Email alerts can also be integrated into the EDC system, so that whenever data is entered for review by a monitor, they are informed even if they are not logged into the EDC system.

Reduced monitor travel costs with remote compliance monitoring

Not only does using EDC keep monitors informed of new captured data as soon as it happens, reducing subject risks, but monitors can perform their tasks from abroad, saving travel time and expenses. The features of using a cloud-based EDC system are nearly endless, but the decentralizing of on-site data monitoring is one of its greatest boons.

Monitors that work from home going to be willing to receive lower salaries, and people are generally happier when they can work from home. Your study will save time and money by an increased retention rate in monitor personnel, that are willing to work with a clinical trial sponsor, study after study.

Further, and this is a benefit from remote monitoring of your medical device clinical trial that most would not think of,  consider reduced human traffic at your study site. The less people you have at your study site the better, as there is simply less for on-site study managers to focus on. This is a minor benefit of an EDC system, compared to the speed of data delivery with EDC, but a benefit nonetheless.

Also consider that remote monitoring can allow the outsourcing of monitors. If your study site is located in California, but there’s a team of specialists in India, willing to perform exceptional quality of monitoring for lower salaries, of course you are not going to fly them over to work for you; cost prohibitive. If you are using the standard on-site monitoring method that comes with paper-based systems, your resources are limited to only those that can geographically travel to your study site.

Cleaner, consistent data submission to monitors

EDC systems can use a study-specific standardized data collection form, reducing errors in collection and delivery to monitors. Consistency is key to running a smooth, hassle-free medical device clinical trial. By using standardized electronic data collection forms, your study will erase the possibility for inconsistent data submission from data managers to monitors.

Paper-based data capture systems may seem familiar and comfortable to clinicians, and making the transition to an EDC system may seem like a plunge into unknown territory, but the data is plainly cleaner when conducting a study with EDC. The deficit of errors and omissions that are caused by implementing EDC are a tremendous ROI for your study. Consider the following:

For example, in a paper-based system, data is recorded by hand, and even something as seemingly trivial as handwriting comes into play and can muddle data. Not every clinician will have the best penmanship, so this opportunity to corrupt data is entirely circumvented by using an EDC system.

A more frequent, and damaging, corruption of data that occurs when using the standard paper-based system are data errors and omissions when recording data. People make mistakes, for whatever reason. It is natural, and bound to happen. Say, for instance, that you have a subject XY-1001-9, for which the clinician is collecting data; it is very easy to write YX-1001-9, XY-101-9 or XY-1010-9 if a clinician is distracted, or maybe just operating on little sleep from the previous night.

By working with an EDC system with standardized data collection forms, the above scenarios are entirely avoided. That being said, standardized forms are not going to write themselves. During the planning stage of your study, devote time to organizing and developing the standardized form model you are going to use for each subject in your study to reduce errors and omissions. In the long run, your ROI will go through the roof.

However, even in an EDC system, mistakes can be made. No system is entirely error-proof, especially when being implemented for the very first time. When a mistake inevitably does happen, it is far less of a headache to solve and prevent from recurring using an EDC system. For starters, FDA compliance adherence measures should already be in place at the hands of the EDC software vendor. As compliance standards are modified by the FDA, they can be updated in the EDC system without a hitch. When data entry errors occur, they can be addressed by programming the software to recognize proper form entries.

Another feature of EDC systems for reducing errors and omissions is data entry recognition standards. Remember the subject number examples? If you write something down on paper, there is no real way to tell if you got it right the first time, than somebody else telling you who has noticed that you have made a mistake, and then correcting it themselves. Every field of the EDC user interface can be programmed to recognize whether the data entered was in the proper format, and whether any fields were skipped or not submitted.

An EDC system also reaps tangible data capture benefits for studies using subject-submitted data. Many subjects are not experts in clinical trial data management and entry, and unless you are conducting a study into only a single variable, patient submitted data, which saves time and costs, is an impractical approach to collecting study data. However, whilst being cloud-based, EDC allows any subject with a smartphone, tablet or computer the ability to submit data, at the very moment it is noticed and measured, mitigating subject risks and saving on study personnel expenses.

For user submitted data, the standardized data collection form with checks in place for data submission ensures that the subject will not make a mistake when submitting data. You will be able to get by and hire less clinicians for future studies, a further cost saver of EDC.

Facilitating future medical device studies

After you take the plunge (and please do, ASAP) into EDC and forego paper-based data capture, the benefits will be noticed immediately for your next clinical trial. Not only will every facet of your data capture and monitoring be smooth sailing, but think of the future studies you will be sponsoring, and how they will benefit.

Not only does EDC facilitate the aforementioned features, but after you and your study personnel (and subjects if applicable) are trained and familiarized with the use of the EDC system you have chosen, future studies will be up and running faster than you can say “outdated, paper-based data capture.”

EDC systems significantly cut the time spent during the planning and preparation phases of a medical device clinical trial. Consider how while you are planning the variables and factors to be measured, you can instantly enter them into the software, saving time and money that would otherwise be spent on designing paper forms and making copies. EDC systems are flexible, and if study personnel is trained properly by the software vendor from the get go, require little maintenance for their design.

What are you waiting for?

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of how vital an EDC system is for an efficient medical device clinical trial, and how many headaches it alleviates for monitoring clinical trials. When you are looking for a vendor, ask how they can eliminate rework and detect problematic trends in real-time. Ask them if they require expensive third-party analytics and if they limit the number of users that can use risk-based monitoring tools and make sure they have a great training program. Enjoy your streamlined future studies.